Apple has opened a simplified Chinese version of its App Store and a new online store in China, the latest in a sharp ramp-up of operations in the market. Mainland China customers can order Apple products, including the iPhone 4 and iPad, and have them delivered for free.
Until now they would have to collect them from one of the handful of Apple retail stores in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. Apple is offering free engraving on any iPod or iPad ordered through the store. Apple is shipping iPhones in China in one to two weeks, and iPads in 24 hours as of Tuesday morning.
Apple, which had only one Apple Store in China last year and relied largely on authorized resellers to reach other customers, has said it plans to open 25 Apple Stores in the country by 2011.
With e-commerce booming in China and consumers spending tens of billions of dollars in transactions each year online, the move could help boost the company's distribution in China. Apple had 7.1% of China's smartphone market as of the second quarter, ranking fifth after Nokia Corp., Samsung Electronics Co., Motorola Inc. and Sony Ericsson, according to research firm Analysys International.
Releasing a Chinese version of Apple's Chinese App Store, an online marketplace where customers can purchase software applications for their iPhones, iPads and iPods, also removes a barrier for Chinese users to access the store. But other hurdles remain, including the requirement for users to have dual-currency credit cards in order to make purchases within the store and problem with users jailbreaking the iphones for free softwares.